Police in Walla Walla County encourage masks without citations

Law enforcement says to follow the state mandate without being fined

Multiple law enforcement agencies in Washington aren’t enforcing Gov. Jay Inslee’s statewide mask mandate but police in Walla Walla County plan to still encourage people to wear masks and follow health guidelines.

Last week, Gov. Inslee announced the statewide mandate for everyone in Washington to wear a face covering or mask while in public. The mandate went into effect Friday. The governor’s office said violators could be charged with a misdemeanor for not following the rule which could result in 90 days in jail or a $1,000 fine.

The Walla Walla Sheriff’s Office, Walla Walla Police Department and College Place Police Department don’t plan to give citations to people without masks in public. Instead, they plan to educate the public about masks and the important role they play during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We just ask that everyone still cooperate for the time being and perhaps we can pass this COVID-19 issue and resume our more normal lives,” Undersheriff Joe Klundt with the Walla Walla Sheriff’s Office said, “We are not going to be citing, we are not going out and actively enforcing, we don’t want someone to call 911 if they see someone without a mask on walking down the street, which has happened.”

People should not call 911 if they see someone without a mask but they can report violations to the governor’s office.

The Walla Walla Police Department released a statement regarding the mandate:

In response to Governor Jay Inslee’s mandatory face covering announcement for every Washingtonian while in public space, the Walla Walla Police Department, Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Office and the College Place Police Department strongly encourage the use of face coverings. We also request that members of the community do not call emergency lines to report individuals who do not comply. These calls place a burden on local law enforcement. For complaints please visit the Violations of the Governor’s Proclamation web page where you can submit your complaint electronically. Collectively, our departments will continue to educate and communicate the need to promote a healthy community.

The law enforcement agencies say more people are wearing masks in public after the governor’s order. It’s not known whether that was caused or correlated, but officials are Klundt says WWSO is glad to see people staying safe.

“It’s not due to the Sheriff’s office and I don’t believe it’s due to the police department,” he said, “I actually think it’s just people starting to realize that we need to do this and we will comply and we’ll be good citizens and we’ll do the best we can.”

Walla Walla County is currently in phase 2 of the governor’s reopening plan. They application for phase 3 is on hold.